Amoeblog

Happy Birthday, Los Angeles!!!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 4, 2010 06:27pm | Post a Comment
Map of Los Angeles County regions
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Los Angeles County

Happy Birthday Los Angeles. The City of Angels turns 229 years young today (sort of). Back in 1781, so the story goes, 44 Spaniards from Mexico established El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Of the Spaniards, 26 were black, sixteen were Native or mestizo, and two were white. The city has grown even more diverse in the past two centuries and now L.A. boasts the greatest ethnic and cultural diversity of any city not only in the known universe, but the known space-time continuum.

Bird's Eye map of Los Angeles County regions minus Channel Islands
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's bird's eye attempt at a Middle Earth style Southland map

Los Angeles also boasts more food trucks, Scientologists, playhouses, Angelenos, lowriders, smog and miles of freeway than any city in the US. A host of surrounding towns put the "great" in "Greater Los Angeles." Any regular readers will know that I like to explore the Southland, in an attempt to entertain and uncover the music, movie, culinary, cultural histories the many and varied communities of the great sprawl -- sort of Los Angeles' extended family.

Out of Africa - Austro-Melanesian History, Culture and Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 1, 2010 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Once upon a time, one or two hundred thousand years ago or so, anatomically human beings appeared on the scene in Africa. About 60,000 years ago, there may have been as many as 5,000 people living on the planet. A number, possibly around 150, decided to cross the Red Sea... following the lead of their cousins, Homo erectus, who'd decided to look for new real estate some 2 million years earlier.

Homo Erectus
Homo Erectus couple
 

The humans traveled along the Arabian coast and, once arriving in South Asia, decided to settle down for a while. Over thousands of years, physical differences would develop in humans that spread from this population; lighter skin allowed for the absorption of Vitamin D3 as people moved into less sunny climes. Nowadays we usually call these descendants Asians and white people. But the people that moved on through Southeast Asia to Australia don't have a name nearly as recognized. To my ears, Australoid sounds so clunky... does the "oid" suffix ever sound good? Some of the more widely used terms in their respective cultures include the vague "black," "negrito" and "aborigine." I'm going to stick with Austro-Melanesian (or Australo-Melanesian) for now... If that catches on, maybe future generations will shorten it to AMs, Ausmels or something catchier. But for now, I'd merely like to focus on both the diversity and solidarity of these various peoples.

Austronesia - Don't Tease Ya

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2010 11:25pm | Post a Comment
Austronesia

Until recently, Austronesian wasn't a self-designation. The name comes from Latin auster (south wind) plus Greek nêsos (island). Of course, historically, Inuits and Aztecs never referred to themselves, in collective solidarity, as "Indians" or "Native Americans," but that doesn't mean we can't see similarities now. Having just  just returned from Taiwan, I've observed a growing pride by some Taiwanese Austronesians in their culture. In June, the International Austronesian Conference was held in Taiwan.

It's probably happening amongst other Austronesians, too, and if anyone wants to buy me a plane ticket to see first hand, I will be there as soon as possible.

Outrigger canoe

Covering a vast area of the Earth, the Austronesians never established a large, centralized authority. Unlike the Mongols, Turks, English or Russians, the Austronesians didn't conquer and assert their sovereignty. Rather, they explored and spread, intermingling when they encountered natives, trading with neighbors and populating previously uninhabited islands. What they left is a vast cultural and linguistic umbrella, on par with the Bantu, Indo-Europeans, Afroasiatics and Uralics.

Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar's Austronesian President Andry Rajoelina

Lizards of Ahs -- Happy Lizard Day!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 14, 2010 11:00am | Post a Comment
Lizard on a branch

Lizards are a large, diverse group of reptiles. Around 3800 species live on land and in sea, on every continent except Antarctica. They range in size from geckos and chameleons (as small as a few centimeters) to komodo dragons (nearly three meters). Their used to be mosasaurs, which reached 17 meters! They proved to be too large and dangerous for Noah and his crew and so, went extinct.

Mosasaur
The "once" mighty mosasaur

Although lizards give a lot of people the willies, most pose no threat. Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards are poisonous but not likely to kill you, just give you a lot of pain. Komodo Dragons, on the other hand, are nothing to mess with. They sometimes stalk and attack humans and as recently as 2007, one killed an Indonesian kid. Nonetheless, in 2001, Sharon Stone's idiot husband bribed a zookeeper to let him see one up close and ended up in the hospital as a result. She divorced him three years later.

Komodo Dragon
Please don't feed the dragon -- your toe

Numerous less dangerous species of lizard are kept as pets. Their owners often walk around with them on their shoulders and are the types to have weird goatees and other features designed to hammer home their eccentricity. Don't be one of those people.

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Southpaw Grammar - Happy International Lefthanders Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 13, 2010 08:58am | Post a Comment
Happy International Lefthanders Day!

International Left-Handers Day

As a child growing up in Bluegrass Country, Kentucky, left-handedness was viewed with suspicion at best, and associated with Natural Evil at worst. Course, they call fiddles "devil's boxes" too. To paraphrase Bobby Boucher, they think everything is the devil!




Ned Flanders Left-Handed

However, hillbillies aren't alone in their distrust of the left hand. The word "sinister" comes from the Latin word sinestra, or "left." And yet, Chris McManus of University College London argues in his book, Right-Hand, Left-Hand, that the proportion of left-handers is increasing and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. In other words, they're taking over...

Left Handed kid doing the splits

Consider our leftie (not necessarily in the normal political sense) presidents. OK, maybe Gerald Ford did little to dispel the connotations of clumsy that give us the expression "two left feet." The '90s were totally cack-handed; both Bush and Clinton were goofy. In times of economic turmoil, we turn to lefties like Hoover and Obama, and then blame them for the conditions they inherited.

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